gleaning joy when it’s gray
I don’t know what we did to deserve this.
This beautiful life.
This miracle child.
Sure, the backdrop of hospitals, specialists, and dire medical reports don’t look dreamy, but the characters, my family, they are the stuff of dreams.
My daughter, who at two years old has already beat the statistics of her condition, constantly teaches me about joy, with weak muscles and weak bones that push her vibrant spirit into the tips of her fingers and the desert green of her eyes. Readily available, never slipping through her fingers when circumstances change, her joy comes straight from the throne room. And when we pray, and sing songs of love to Jesus, she looks at me with understanding. She knows Jesus. She knows He is nestled in that nourished place, where her childlike faith blooms, where His goodness has found a home.
As a mother, it can be easy to tally up all that is going wrong in her body, in our lives, in our day and choose uncertainty over the steady grip of joy. Just the other day we went to the ER and spent six hours waiting for a procedure that should have been done in the first place. Six hours of crying and soothing, of egg salad sandwiches on cardboard bread, diarrhoea and catheters and stifling our frustration with the system.
This is not the stage I would choose to live my life on. Yet God is showing me the truth about joy in the picked over places. It comes unexpectedly, sometimes roaring, sometimes in the small, plain things. It comes and yells, choose me, I dare you!
As we gathered our things from the tiny ER room, the nurse that catheterized my daughter came back in and blurted these words: “People often ask my why I would choose to work here. Why would I want to be in this environment? I do it because of you, your family, the love and joy I see displayed here. This is a beautiful thing, and this is why I’m here. Thank you.”
I found myself in tears, taken aback by her honesty and kindness. I thanked her as she sheepishly wiped away her own tears. Then she was gone. I felt that familiar spirit tingle as I shoved the ER discharge papers in my purse. Suddenly my day was marked with a highlight, a moment of joy. Two holy minutes up against six hours of misery.
We made it outside, and as I strapped my daughter Florence into her flat car seat, she looked up at me with her curved lips, and lent me a smile. With a happy sigh and glow in her eyes, she called to me in her birdsong voice, “Mama. Mama.”
After all that she was put through, after all the aching tears, she let me know I am still her mama, I am still cherished. Joy lay strapped to the backseat with full leg casts, and joy won. Another highlight, a fluorescent blur peeling back the gray sky.
As a mother in the trenches, shouldering this sack called life, I often find myself waiting for change, waiting for the borders to stretch, waiting for something other than this hard road. The waiting can pull me apart like sticky bread, piece by piece, until only the crumbs remain.
I’m thankful that God still uses these bits, these dry crumbs, by adding living water, remoulding and remaking me.
I’m also thankful that in the waiting, I am learning to glean joy from any old field. The harvest is plentiful, even when we feel picked over and trampled, poor and hungry. There is much to be found here, much to receive.
Lovelies, my hope is that you find joy out here too. May we reap when the harvest is bountiful, and glean in the plain, gray valleys.